Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 03/12/14
Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I've lived or worked in France, Morocco, South Korea, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Mexico, and Pakistan prior to this tour in Lima.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Denver, Colorado. It's an overnight flight with one connection. Total travel time is about 12 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments on the coast and larger homes available as you move inland. From the coastal neighborhood of Miraflores it takes 30-60minutes to drive to the Embassy, depending on traffic. I drive my own car to work but beyond that I almost never drive. Taxis are very reasonable and there are many secure taxi services. Buses are available, but are less convenient and less safe.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Lima is more expensive than you would think. Groceries are more expensive, although produce is about the same as U.S. prices. Wine is very expensive--even Argentine wine. You can find most goods in Peruvian stores. Canned whole or crushed tomatoes are difficult to find and expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Organic dish soap and canned crushed tomatos.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lima has numerous fast food restaurants at U.S. prices.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insect problems.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Housekeepers and nannys are easily available. I have a housekeeper/cook who comes three days per week and we pay approximately US$220 per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are many gyms in the city. The Embassy has a small gym but it does the trick.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
In Lima you can use ATMs with relative safety and you can use credit cards at major stores and restaurants. Peru is still predominately a cash economy and I avoid using my credit card.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to speak some Spanish to get around.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Peru is getting better at providing appropriate access for disabled persons but services and basic access can still be limited in Lima. Outside of Lima, options are even more limited or non-existent.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local taxis are safe, but you should stick to secure call services, not street taxis. That said, I sometimes take street taxis and have never had a problem. Local buses are less safe and extremely affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Traffic is crazy and drivers are aggressive. In the city, I prefer a small SUV. You don't need 4WD, but having a larger vehicle can be helpful on the roads. You would be fine with a sedan, however, if you prefer.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, the service is fairly reliable and costs less than US$100/month.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are some teaching opportunities and a lot of work in mining and oil/gas.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Volunteerism is still a new idea in Peru so opportunities are limited. Most organizations do not have the capacity to absorb volunteers.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Lima is more formal than the U.S. I wear suits to the office. I wear jeans but never shorts in public in my free time.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lima is a high crime city with home break-ins and robberies. Violent crime is less common, but it does occur. It depends on the neighborhood. I feel very safe in the upper class neighborhoods, but the situation is different in poorer communities.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care is okay. Dental care is decent. If it's something minor, I would feel comfortable receiving treatment in Lima. Anything more complicated, I would not trust the medical system here.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Lima is quite congested and polluted. I would say the air quality is moderate or unhealthy.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
About 8 months of the year, Lima is overcast, foggy, damp, and cool, but never cold. Summer can reach the mid 80s F with always sunny days and most Limenos leaving the city on weekends for the beach.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There is a Christian School that offers a lot of services to special-needs kids.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are many preschools and daycare options in Lima.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is good sized but because there is so much to do in Lima, it's not as tight as other places I've lived.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Dining, live music, plays, symphony, cafes, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, families enjoy nice housing and Peruvians are very family-oriented. Lima has plenty for singles to do--bars, clubs, beaches galore. I'm married without children and we have been very happy here. We frequently go to restaurants and take walks on the coast. There are a few decent yoga studios and a decent selection of cultural activities to take advantage of.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There is a big LGBT community, but there is also a lot of LGBT-based discrimination. Peru is much more conservative on LGBT rights compared to other countries in the region.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a lot of racism, classism, and religious conservatism in Peru.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Restaurants in Lima are fantastic. Traveling to the mountains of Huaraz and the Sacred Valley top my list. Machu Picchu is a must do and despite the fact that it's difficult to get to, it's definitely worth it.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
So many great restaurants to try, surfing off the coast of Lima, a pretty good symphony.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of handicrafts, beautiful alpaca blankets and sweaters, nice wood furniture, silver items.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lima has a few lovely neighborhoods filled with restaurants, parks, music, art, cafes. Walking along the Pacific Coast is a treat. Peruvian food is becoming world renowned and for good reason. Peruvian food is delicious--shellfish, fish, meats, and some surprisingly decent homemade pasta restaurants. Outside LIma, the Andes are truly majestic. If you love hiking, you have to fly and acclimate to the high altitude, but once you have that covered, the hiking is outstanding. There are innumerable Incan ruins and a big surf culture on the coast. If the Jungle is your thing, then you can fly to the Amazon and stay at relaxing eco-lodges.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, if you are conscious. We've saved a lot of money here but if you go out all the time and aren't paying attention, you can spend a lot of money here.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much racism and classism there is. It was a big surprise and affects all of your interactions.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, definitely. It's a great post.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Raincoat--it never rains in Lima!
4. But don't forget your:
Sweaters for winter and bathing suit and surfboard for summer.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Anything by Mario Vargas Llosa.